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Experts blame juvenile violent crime on a deteriorating social fabric

A street fight in Ho Chi Minh City begins after a vehicle collision. Experts say young people are resorting to violence to resolve everyday conflicts because they don't receive proper education and care.

Experts are blaming improper teaching methods and poor parenting for a recent spate of youth violence in Vietnam's major cities.

Ho Chi Minh City police logged 2,730 violent crimes in the first half of 2010. So far, according to the latest statistics, 2,216 arrests have been made.

Children aged 18 and under are responsible for 23.7 percent of all violent crimes in HCMC, according to the new statistics. Last year, young people accounted for the second highest demographic of criminal cases.

"Juvenile delinquents pose a significant threat to the city. They don't care about others' health and life, and are willing to go to extremes to settle trivial conflicts," a spokesperson for the city police force said following the release of the statistics. "They join gangs to protect themselves when they feel threatened, or rob when they have no money."

Between 1998 and 2010, the average criminal's age became younger and younger, according to Nguyen Duc Nhanh, director of the Hanoi Police Department.

The nation's big cities have been rocked, of late, by news accounts of hot-blooded murder.

Nguyen Quoc Tan, 21, was arrested in August for stabbing two men to death and injuring another in HCMC's District 1. The trio and Tan got into an argument after their motorbikes nearly collided.

A heated street encounter also caused Tran Van Hien and Doan Chi Hieu, both 20, to slash 34- year-old Pham Quoc Hung to death after a conflict in HCMC's Thu Duc District, on September 10.

Police said Hien and Hung bumped into each other in a coffee shop restroom - spurring an argument that erupted into a deadly assault.

"Spur-of-the-moment crimes committed by teenagers are on the rise," a HCMC police spokesman warned at a press conference held early this month.

Kids these days

Mai Van Tan, chief of the HCMC police's social security crimes investigation department, PC14, has attributed the recent violence to "over-inflated egos" among youth.

Tran Anh Doan Nghi of the HCMC Bar Association said young people these days face pressure at school and home. Nghi believes that many parents fail to bring their children to places where they can safely recreate and refresh themselves.

Many parents, he feels, are too busy earning a living to give them the care and attention they require.

He also blamed schools for failing to teach students how to behave.

Students are forced to remember exactly how many soldiers were killed and how many enemy aircrafts were shot down during their history lessons. But they aren't taught how to say "sorry" after making a mistake, the lawyer argued.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Bich Hong of the HCMC University of Education said parents are ultimately responsible for their children's violence.

Kids usually mimic adult behavior, she said, adding that children who observe adults using violence to solve their problems will inevitably believe violence is a necessary part of protecting themselves.

Dr. Hong also expressed concerns that children rarely trust adults anymore.

Nowadays, children don't usually come to their parents or teachers with their problems, she said, because they think adults don't understand them.

Nguyen Thi Thu Cuc, the principal of HCMC's Gia Dinh High School, said that families play an important role in educating children and helping them develop a conscience.

Parents need to spend time talking with children, listening to them, and sharing meals with them to ensure they are aware of what's going on in their kids' lives, according to Cuc.

"[Families] need to help children remain aware of their family's love so that, wherever they go and whatever they do, they always think about their family and their responsibility to their parents," she said.

Creating healthy playgrounds and strengthening laws are some solutions that will take time to prove their effectiveness, according to Tan.

In the meantime, he said, families need to cooperate with schools and social organizations to curb juvenile delinquency.

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